Let’s be honest. Your Google Classroom is a hot mess.
If it is, you’re like many, many other teachers.
(If it’s not a hot mess, kudos to you. We can learn something from you!)
Thankfully, Google Classroom has a feature that helps you keep your classwork page neat and tidy and orderly — topics!
Some of the basics to know about topics:
- Topics are like headings for your assignments, questions and materials.
- Add a topic with the “Create” button on the classwork page.
- You can create almost as many topics as you want (max 100).
- Click and drag things on your classwork page under any topic.
Of course, how you use topics on your Google Classroom classwork page will dictate how effective and efficient they are for you.
Here are three strategies that can help make the most of this useful feature:
1. Pick the organizational structure that works best for you
If your classwork page were a filing cabinet filled with folders, what would you put on those tabs?
There’s a variety of structures you can use. And thankfully, you can change your mind. Topics are so easy to change. Topics are so easy to rename, add and delete. In a matter of minutes, you can switch to a brand new organizational structure if one isn’t working for you.
Here are some examples of structures you could use:
a. Sort by week
b. Sort by unit
c. Sort by subject or topic
d. Sort by file type
Of course, any of these can be modified. But having some suggestions can help you figure out which fits you best — or at least which one you want to try first.
2. Organize more deeply with subtopics
If you’re a super organizer (or an aspiring super organizer), you may think along these lines …
Organizing by unit sounds great. But each of my units has multiple chapters. And each chapter has multiple lessons. I wish I could organize my Google Classroom like an outline with points and subpoints — and sub-subpoints!
Guess what? You can! We just have to be creative with naming our topics and how we organize them.
For example, your organizational structure can easily go two levels deep — chapters and lessons. Figure out how you’ll type it in the topics so it fits nicely. Then, keep it consistent.
Here, just by typing them in the name, you have a chapter and a lesson.
Consistency keeps it neat! I abbreviated the word “chapter” but spelled out the word lesson. Why? For me, it fit in the space and I thought it looked good that way. However you decide to do it, stay consistent. It’ll make your topics much easier to scan for students. They’ll find what they need faster.
Let’s go crazy — three levels of organization!
In this case, I abbreviated everything: U1 for unit 1, Ch1 for chapter 1, L1 for lesson 1.
See … you don’t need an official function in Google Classroom for multiple levels of organization. Just make them yourself!
3. Use emojis and/or parenthetical abbreviations as tags
Let’s say your items in the Google Classroom classwork page have different characteristics …
- Some may have videos.
- Some may be written activities.
- Some may be from different academic subjects.
- Some may have different styles (poetry vs. short story vs. novel)
- Some may just be fun or funny things you want to share with students.
For any of those characteristics, assign an emoji in the name for that characteristic.
- On mobile devices, I’ll bet you already have an emoji keyboard! (If not, search for how you can add one to your keyboard.)
- On Chromebooks and devices with the Google Chrome web browser, use an extension like Emoji Keyboard.
- On Macs, use the Ctrl + Cmd + Spacebar keyboard shortcut to bring up emojis.
In our examples above, if your assignment includes a video, is a writing assignment and is a social studies activity, you could include one emoji for each of those.
To use this, basically think of what characteristics students might search your classwork for. Adding an emoji lets them find that assignment at a glance.
Don’t want to use emojis? (Or, want to add a second layer of tagging?) Try text-based tags instead! In the image above, I used (RES) for “research project”. Any activity related to the research project could be tagged with that (RES) abbreviation.
Are you ready to get your Google Classroom under control now???
- Find an organizational structure.
- Add subtopics (and sub-subtopics!).
- Use emojis or text abbreviations to assign tags to classwork.
Use one of those strategies. Use two or even all three! Then, watch as your Google Classroom falls in line with your organizational hopes and dreams!
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